I've been a kayak fisherman for 15 years now. It's a great way to stay fit, catch more fish, and access areas where most boats can't go.
When Your Kayak Is Too Long for Your Truck
I own a Jackson Kraken fishing kayak that is 13.5' long. My vehicle is a Ford F-150 with a 5.5' long bed. With my tailgate extended I have 6'9' of bed length to work with to carry my kayak to my favorite fishing hole. Unfortunately this leaves nearly half of my kayak unsupported and without tightly securing the nose of the boat at the front of the bed it's very prone to tipping backward. Having your kayak exit the back of your pickup on a crowded highway could be a nightmare scenario, to say the least, so properly securing my rig was a top priority. At first I actually purchased an over-the-cab rack system. There are a number of over cab truck racks, including the Thule Xsporter, which sells for around $800. I went with the Xsporter, but no longer use it for the reasons mentioned below.
Pros and Cons of Over-the-Cab Kayak Racks
One big advantage of over-the-cab kayak racks is that this frees up space in your bed for camping gear and other items. Most models are more than sturdy enough to carry a heavy fishing kayak and can also be used to carry other items such as lumber.
A big downside to these racks is that you must lift your kayak up to the height of the rack when loading it up. This is generally not a problem with lightweight ocean kayaks, yet with heavy fishing kayaks, which often must be stored right-side-up, it can be a big hassle, especially if you are single-handed. If you add in the hindrance of a sloping boat ramp, loading your kayak on top of your truck rack can be a challenging endeavor.
Noise and Fuel Economy
I cannot really describe the noise that a fully-loaded fishing kayak makes when carried at 70 mph on an over-the-cab truck rack. It's really awful, kind of a mix between a screech and a low moan. I don't know what all that windload did to my fuel mileage, but I'm sure it didn't help it much.
For all of the reasons listed above, I chose to go with a bed extender to carry my Jackson Kraken.
The T-Bone Bed Extender Is Easier to Use
After struggling to get my own rig up onto an over-the-cab truck rack that I'd purchased I began searching for an alternative and found a couple of choices online.
I chose to purchase a T-Bone Bed Extender made by Boonedox based on reviews that I'd read and from having spoken to a fellow fisherman who owned one. Watching him load a similar kayak up into his short bed truck in a few seconds convinced me to immediately go home and purchase the T-Bone. In a few days the long package came by delivery truck and I assembled it in less than half an hour.
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The T-Bone attaches to a standard-size truck hitch receiver and is secured with a regular hitch pin. There are a number of adjustment holes that allow you to adjust the height of the bar to match your bed height. When installed, the T-Bone adds 48" to your bed length, which easily solves the "tipping" problem for long kayaks.
Another nice plus of this rack is that it features the Groove track, which accepts all of the common accessories such as RAM, Yak Attack, Scotty. If you have a fishing hole you can back up to, you can attach rod holders, drink holders, and other accessories.
Beware of Cheap Bed Extenders
There's nothing wrong with trying to save a buck or two. You will find that there are many models of bed extenders that sell for much less than the cost of a T-Bone. Why are they so cheap? The answer is that most are made in China and are made with heavy steel. The lightest of these weighs just over 30 pounds, compared to 14 for the T-Bone. It's no fun carrying around an awkward-sized metal bar that weights that much and it's not as easy to adjust them to line up the pin as you attach them to your hitch receiver. Also, the cheap knock-offs don't feature the rail system that allows you to easily move the upright posts or add accessories such as rod holders.
Tips For Using a T-Bone Bed Extender
The T-Bone bed extender comes with two upright posts which are adjustable on the rail system. These help stabilize your kayak on the end of the extender's bar, yet you will want to use a cam buckle strap to secure it to the bar, besides securing your kayak to your truck's bed. You may want to cover the upright posts with a short length of foam pool noodle or pipe insulation to prevent your boat from being scratched.
Selling at just over $200, these handy bed extenders may be the target of thieves, so make sure that you purchase a locking hitch pin to prevent theft. Also, when you're at your favorite fishing spot, you may want to simply remove the rack, so that it does not cause your vehicle to stick out into traffic. Sorry, but having one on your truck doesn't qualify you to park in the boat trailer parking! If you choose to leave it on your vehicle while you're off fishing, just make sure that it does not block the path of other vehicles or pedestrians.
Be Aware of Your Vehicle Length
Truck bed extenders are legal in most states; however, you should always check with your own state's regulations. When driving, be aware that your vehicle with a kayak is much longer than without one. Keep this in mind when passing or parking, so that you don't block traffic.
Warning Flag Required
If your kayak extends beyond your truck's rear, it must be marked with red or orange fluorescent warning flags. Each warning flag must be at least 457 mm (18 inches) square. Don't forget this, or you may receive a citation.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Nolen Hart